Home Home Home Home Home Home Home
CakeSpy

Featured: 

What is Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Unicorn Love: the Eating Disorder Recovery Blog

 

 Buy my brilliant books!

Buy my new book!

Buy my first book, too! 

CakeSpy Online Retail!

 

Archives
Gallery

Fantastic appliance for cake making on DHgate.com

everyrecipe.co.nz

Craftsy Writer

Entries in seattle (182)

Wednesday
Feb112009

Sweet Factory: Behind the Scenes at Little Rae's Bakery in Seattle

Glitter Heart Cookie
Recently, our Head Spy Jessie was invited to take a tour of Little Rae's Bakery, a wholesale bakery here in Seattle (and, one of the nation's few completely nut-free bakeries). If you live in the Seattle area, you're undoubtedly familiar with their natural, organic baked goods--they're sold at nicer supermarkets and coffee shops all throughout the city, and even made national headlines with their recent First Family Cookies.

Having grown up fascinated with that spot about how crayons are made on Sesame Street, and as an avid watcher of Unwrapped, there was no doubt about a response--the word "YES!" couldn't be uttered quickly enough.

So, what goes on at a factory of sweetness? Here's what she saw:
Hobart!James with a big cookie/scone machine

First off, everything is big. Big, big, big. From an enormous Hobart mixer to a big machine which divides dough into individual portions, the machinery is heavy-duty (see Little Rae's owner James next to one of the machines for a size comparison).

They're also baked in ginormous ovens, which trays are loaded into and rotate in a circular motion to bake evenly.
JUST out of the big oven!Coming out of the oven

Of course, the most magical part (to me) was the point at which they were out of the oven--when the aroma of fresh, sweet baked goods was rich in the air, and the employees set to frosting and decorating them. Several employees were delegated to these tasks, and moved at warp speed, icing, frosting and adding sprinkles to the cookies. Really, I could have watched them do this all day.
Cookies being frosted and sugaredJust frosted cookies
Professional cookie decoratorsBefore and after cookiesMaple sconesJust frosted scones
Finally, once allowed to dry or set, the baked goods are packaged--all of the packaging has fun pictures of the employees-- and put out for deliveries.
Cookies just packaged!Packaging the cookies
Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't mention that one of the best parts of the tour was the box of free goodies I got at the end of it, including my favorite, their iced shortbread cookies:
Booty from the tour!
Moreover, I was impressed by the fact that even though they are baking these treats in larger quantities, the process isn't really all that different than baking at home--just a lot more sterile (no licking the spoon here!) and with a lot bigger machinery. It was especially exciting to see that even at a larger scale, this company isn't adding anything scary to their baked goods--it's all fresh and organic, and it's clearly a labor of love for owner James, who oversees all daily operations. And of course, having seen the process, it made the cookies all that much more delicious to eat afterward.

Want to learn more about Little Rae's Bakery? Visit their website at littleraesbakery.com. Not in Seattle? Don't despair--you can still enjoy their baked goods via mail order.

 

Saturday
Jan242009

Pie, Oh My: The Most Amazing National Pie Day Celebration Ever

Best Pie Day Ever!
Did you know that January 23rd was National Pie Day?


Now, some may argue that the day to celebrate pie ought to be March 14th.

 

Unfortunately, these math nerds missed out on the cool-kid party we attended last Friday: a no-holds barred, absolute pie love-in, the likes of which we'd never seen.
Pie Day LocationEAT PIE!
It was held at the Salmon Bay Eagles Hall in Ballard, Seattle; while the sign said FOE, the sandwich board definitely let on that PIE meant FRIEND.
Glowing Pie at Pie Celebration
Tees for Sale at Pie day celebrationPrize Table
Inside, a veritable pie nirvana awaited, including music ("American Pie", anyone?) by our new favorite band the Fillings; EAT PIE t-shirts (designed by Christine Larsen); ginormous glowing pie sculptures; a projector screening various pie imagery, and of course, a delightful table of raffle prizes (including Cakespy artwork!).
With Music by "The Fillings"Me and Mary, the Pie Party organizer
The organizer, Mary, and her team (the À la mode girls) all wore the cutest pie-themed headpieces and dresses. (pictured: Head Spy Jessie with Mary)

Coconut Cream PiePecan PieCranberry Walnut PieThe Lemon Chess Pie was quite popular

Pie Buffet, with ice cream for those who prefer a la modePieSpy!
But of course, truly, the Pièce de résistance was the pie buffet: a series of tables set together in a line, it must have been over 30-ish feet long, with every type of pie you could ever dream of, both sweet and savory. We ogled over and sampled sweet varieties such as coconut cream, lemon chess, blueberry, marionberry, bourbon pecan, and more; even though we don't usually foray into savories, the Veggie Frito pie does deserve at least a mention. In a stroke of what can only be described as sheer brilliance, a large tub of vanilla ice cream (donated by Molly Moon) was positioned at the end of the line, a sweet gesture for those who preferred their pie à la mode; nearby, a station with milk and coffee offered accompaniments, but of course the cool and over 21 crowd could go to the adjoining bar area.

Of course, even sweeter than the pie was the mission: proceeds from raffle ticket sales went toward The Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research

Seriously, words cannot really convey the true awesomeness of this Pie Day event.
Peanut Butter Mini Pies
In honor of the day, here is the offering that Head Spy Jessie made to the Pie Buffet: Cup-pies so dense and delicious, they'll knock your socks off (or rot your teeth out, either/or). Though the white chocolate version is shown, we brought the dark chocolate variety to the party.
White or Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup-pies

Crust (to be blind-baked before filling), recipe adapted from Taste of Home:
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Preheat oven to 450. In a bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in shortening until crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Roll out to desired thickness (maybe slightly thinner than you would for a regular-sized pie) on a floured surface; either cut with a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter (or just eyeball it and cut with a knife, you can shape it later) to about 2.5 inches across; press into cupcake cups and with fingers, shape to fit (I found this works best with silicone cupcake cups, which are sturdier than paper variations). This amount will make anywhere from 8-12 cup-pies, depending on how thick you like the crust. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges.
Filling (not baked), adapted from Diana's Desserts:
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate chocolate, coarsely chopped 
OR
  • 8 ounces white chocolate couverture, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 
  • 2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter and Co.'s White Chocolate Wonderful)
Microwave chocolate and whipping cream in medium bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring every minute. Beat with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended. Add the 2 tbsp. of peanut butter; mix well. Spoon into prebaked (already cooled) shells. Refrigerate let cool; refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
Note: You may have extra filling, depending on how thick your crusts are. If so, it's...um...delicious by the spoonful.
For more info on all things pie, visit piecouncil.org, or to get in on the argument over holiday's date, visit The Stranger. Though it's not been active for some time, the Mini Pie Revolution has a lot of cute ideas too.

 

Wednesday
Jan072009

1.7.09: Baked Good of the Day: Chocolate Tart from Le Fournil

Chocolate Tart from Le Fournil
Initially, I headed over to Le Fournil hoping for a galette des rois, the traditional French cake served on the Epiphany and for several days after. Alas, not a galette was to be found at this traditional French bakery, but it wasn't a complete wash--I picked up one of their gorgeous-looking chocolate tarts.

The chocolate tart (or, if you're feeling Frenchy, the tarte au chocolat) is comprised of a brebaked sweet pastry shell filled with the most divinely rich chocolate ganache--this stuff is so dense and decadent that it will leave teeth-or-tine marks when broken apart--just like the inside of a decidedly rich truffle. I'd like to say it's suitable for sharing, but I know that personally, I'd rather not, instead opting to eat this in lieu of dinner. How could it be wrong when it feels so right?

The Tarte au chocolat is available at Le Fournil.

Tuesday
Dec022008

Cakespy Takes the Cake: A Special Guest Spot on Cupcakes Take the Cake!

Seattle Cupcakes: A Gentle Primer

Cakespy Note: As you know, Cupcakes Take the Cake is one of the awesomest sites ever--their dedication to cupcakes is awe-inspiring, and the girls who write for it happen to be 100% pure fun as well; they've been featured in many publications and even on Martha Stewart!

So it was an honor to be asked to be part of their "Guest Blogger" program in celebration of their 4-year anniversary. For our post, Head Spy Jessie sounded off on Seattle cupcakes--here's her contribution.

One of the most common questions I get asked by people coming to visit Seattle is "Where should I go for the best cupcakes?".

This question makes me want to pop a Xanax or ten, because it's a fraught question for a people-pleaser like me. How could I possibly know what you'll like? *Heaves into paper bag*

But you know what I can do? I can tell you what I like. Me, me, me. But I haven't set it up as a bakery guide: I've done it geographically, by destinations that I deem worthy, so depending on where you find yourself in Seattle, you'll never be far from a cupcake. Whether you like them or not will be up to you--but then again, isn't taking a risk part of having an adventure?
Here goes:

Cuppies at the West Seattle Junction
Alaska Junction in West Seattle: This is a cool little shopping area, but it's definitely a drive from downtown Seattle (at 6 or so miles, it would be an awfully healthy walk). But it's worth the drive because there you'll find Cupcake Royale and Sugar Rush Bakery, and just a bit down the road, a PCC, all of which have cupcakes. Yes, worth the trip.

 

Holiday assortment from cupcake Royale
Archie McPhee: Do you love kitschy, cool little impulse buy items? Of course you do, so you'll want to visit the Ballard neighborhood, home of Archie McPhee, which is the company that brought the world such gems as the Jesus Action Figure (c'mon, you've seen it at Hot Topic, don't lie). Just down the block, you can get your cupcake on at Cupcake Royale's flagship location, which features an amazing Cupcake art piece above the entrance.

Cupcakes, Whole Foods, Westlake

The Houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle: Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Seattle lives in a houseboat (sorry). However, you can get a Tom and Meg spark--at least for a few minutes--by visiting the houseboat where the magical film was made. It's kind of in no-man's land, but we'd say your best bet close by is Whole Foods Westlake, which has a good variety of cupcakes which are made in-house. I have to be honest though, I have never had one from this location--but I have had their house-made cheesecake and that was good!

 

Cupcakes with the Fremont Troll
Cardamom chai wheat-free vegan cupcake from Flying Apron, Seattle
Fremont Troll: I can't even begin to understand why someone made this, but I like it. Nearby, you can get your vegan cupcake fix at Flying Apron Bakery, which specializes in gluten-free, vegan baking. Some swear by their cake, but personally I think their cookies are better. PCC also has cupcakes (vegan and non), and you can sometimes-but-not-always get cupcakes at Simply Desserts (they mainly specialize in layer cakes and cakes-by-the-slice).

The Apartment Building from Singles: Aside from being part of one of the greatest films ever made, the apartment building from Singles, Coryell Court (at 19th and Thomas) is also close to a favorite bakery: The North Hill Bakery. They're only open til 5:30 p.m. or so, but I try to make it over whenever I'm in the neighborhood.
Northgate Mall: My friend Phil informed me that this was the first covered mall in North America. Of course, since he's from New Jersey, he knows his mall culture. Now, the Northgate Mall is pretty much what you'd expect in any suburban mall: jewelry stores, department stores, kiosks with back massagers. If you need to go here, then please, on your way, stop by the Blue Saucer Cafe; they retail cupcakes by Look Cupcake, which is a special-order cupcakery with filled cupcakes. Like, yum!

 

Cuppies at Pike Place
Cupcakes at the Dahlia Bakery, SeattleChocolate Ganache Cupcake
Pike Place Market: You may be surprised to hear this, but there are very few cupcakes at the market itself (though of course there are a lot of other great baked goods and food). They sometimes have them at Pike Place Bakery or at Michou, but in my opinion you'd be better off walking up a few blocks from the Market and checking out Macrina Bakery (read the Cupcakes Take the Cake review here) or Dahlia Bakery.

Pioneer Square / Underground Tour: The Underground Tour is cheesy, but I love it. There's a whole city beneath the city of Seattle! Like, whoa! And nearby, you can get your sweet fix at Grand Central Baking. OK, truthfully, they do not offer cupcakes. But, they offer mini bundt cakes, and they're super cute, so we're going to say they're a suitable stand-in.

Cuppie at the Seattle Art Museum
Seattle Art Museum: Refer to Pioneer Square or the Seattle Public Library; it's sort of in-between the two. Oddly, your pet might have the best chance of scoring a "pupcake" in the immediate vicinity, at Three Dog Bakery.

Cuppie at the Seattle Public Library
Seattle Public Library: I love the SPL. Seriously, I go there like 3 times a week at least to research various cake and baked good related things. I even designed a postcard (image above) that they sell in their store! If you choose to visit, you'll want to trek just a few more blocks up the hill to Sugar Bakery + Cafe, where the cake is sweet and they sell my artwork. Yes, there were two plugs for my artwork in this paragraph. Also, though they don't sell cupcakes, the nearby Belle Epicurean does sell (very good) small cakes.

January 6, 2008 

Space Needle: You'll be in the crossroads between the Belltown and Queen Anne neighborhoods. Up the road just a bit on the Queen Anne side is Metropolitan Market, where they sell cupcakes from previously mentioned Cupcake Royale; a bit further up the hill, Pasta + Co. has cupcakes too. Of course, I also live near the Space Needle so you could always give me a call and I might have some cupcakes.

 

Tacoma Cuppies
Cupcakes Make Mr. Cakespy Happy
Tacoma's Museum of Glass: This place is really cool--you get to see a real live glassblowing studio! It's hot, literally. And nearby, sweetness can be found at the adorable (and well-loved--they've been featured in Seattle Magazine and Sunset Magazine!) hello, cupcake, where the cupcakes are dainty-looking, but pack a dense, tasty punch when you take a bite (see above picture for an indication of how happy they made my husband, the dear Mr. Cakespy).


Cafe Au Lait Cupcakes Closeup
Woodland Park Zoo: It's not the Bronx Zoo for sure, but it's surprisingly comprehensive. Mr. Cakespy and I have spent many a happy day at this zoo. And as a bonus, it's not too far from Trophy Cupcakes, which you may know from its many features--on Martha Stewart, on Cupcakes Take the Cake, the Seattle P-I, and many more. What's a mile and a half walk when cupcake nirvana awaits?

 

 

So there you have it--my Seattle in Cupcakes, but of course, open for you to choose your own (totally sweet) adventure.
Thanks again to Cupcakes Take the Cake for letting me sound off, and a very happy 4 year anniversary to you well!

 

 

 


 

 

Saturday
Oct182008

Cakespy Undercover: Major Mojo at Two Tartes in Seattle

The "Mojo" from Two Tartes
Unless you live in Georgetown, chances are you've never come across Two Tartes, a small bakery / cafe near the old Rainier Brewing factory. In their ads and on their site, they dub themselves as "aggressively uncool"; our first impression was that this must be some type of hipster-speak for "we're so much awesomer than you". On our recent visit though, we learned that the title is apt--all of the employees we encountered were friendly and seemed really into their products.

Walking in on a Tuesday morning, scones and cookies were well-stocked; the rest of the assortment consisted of the odd cupcake or tart, and weren't as appealingly displayed. Asking for advice on a cookie choice, the girl behind the counter listed the varieties. We couldn't help but notice that her voice hushed slightly (in reverence perhaps?) at the mention of the "Mojo", their store specialty--a hefty coconut/chocolate chip/oatmeal cookie which is roughly as big as a salad plate.

Oh, the Mojo. Still slightly warm, the crisp edge of the cookie gave way to chocolatey bits mingled with the chewy oatiness to make some sort of a mouthfeel nirvana; the coconut didn't hit right away but was more of a complementary middle and aftertaste, adding a dimension of richness and depth to the flavor. Oh yeah--this is one good cookie. And at $1.75 for a cookie that could easily be split four ways (really), it's a bargain too.

All in all, a good trip. While we think that maybe they could let go of that aggressive uncool-ness enough to make their displays a little bit more appealing, there's no denying that they know how to make a good cookie.

Two Tartes Bakery, 5629 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98108; 206-767-8012; online at www.twotartes.com.
Two Tartes Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Aug062008

Eat Your Art Out: Sweet Masterpieces by Patianne Stevenson

Cakespy note: The above cupcake is sweet, but not delicious: it's made of cardboard!
What's so awesome about dessert? Well, there's the obvious answer--everything! But if pressed, we might say that our favorite aspect is that it's such a simple and attainable luxury--something that can so easily turn around a bad day, make an event special--something that just makes life sweeter. Literally.

And that sweetness is celebrated beautifully with Art on the Menu, a collection of artwork by Seattle-based Patianne Stevenson. We're equal parts in love with her painterly renditions of sweets, and completely awe of her painstaking cardboard renditions of dainty desserts (yes--the pictures to the left are made of cardboard!). Our Head Spy Jessie recently wrote a story about her for DailyCandy Seattle, and in researching it got to pick her brain a bit about her art; here's what we learned!

Desperately seeking sweetness: who is the artist?

 

 

I am a real foodie, and an artist. That's Art On The Menu: a life combing both my loves. I am formally trained in the visual arts, however cooking and baking are also an art form for me. Place painting, sculpture, cooking and baking in the bowl and stir until incorporated. They each have the quality of creating something from something. In my life, this not only gives me the picture perfect subject, I get to eat it later! Tasting my subjects is part of the process. And there is never a lack inspiration. At times a painting or cardboard sculpture will begin with a recipe which I will make; at other times I just have to eat french fries for dinner...all these moments are inspirational. If I don't have a feeling for what's next in the studio, I "go out". Going out can mean anything from visiting a bakery to shopping the farmers market, or simply discussing food with my foodie friends.
What's the story behind her process?

I seem to have the "deconstructing" nature that I notice in the prose of professional food writers. They are able tell you about the meal, including the look, taste, and ambiance, by poetically describing the parts. I too focus on the bits and parts of a meal to evoke the whole. Rather than words, I use color, pattern, texture and shape. This is how I approach my work, including commissions, which can be anything from depicting a family recipe, to creating a site and color specific piece for that little slice of wall under a cabinet and above the counter in a client's kitchen. It's the same process with my cardboard sculpture. Although it is three dimensional, cardboard has color, pattern, texture and shape. I especially love the inconsistencies and little imperfections that arise in the final pieces from the "Cardboard Kitchen". It's just like finished recipes from the other kitchen in that way, but without the oven of course!

Why does she do it?

I love painting sweets! They're always beautiful, happy, and fun. But, my favorite baked subject has to be the cupcake! The variations are endless. It's like a fashion show! Enrobing can run from classic buttercream to the cupcake encrusted with the most outrageously gorgeous colors and fondant decorations. Even the outer garment, the paper cup, can make a stylish appearance. And of course there's the cake as the surprise. I just bought a little beauty to paint from a local bakery. The cake is pineapple rum flavored. I am so excited! So now I have to admit I also love to eat them. I think of it as eating a whole cake at once!

On her hometown:

 

We Seattlites are incredibly lucky to have many truly wonderful cafes, bistros, restaurants, and bakeries. I can never decide on just where to take visitors, unless I have a month. And are we ever blessed in the cupcake department! We not only have several very well known bakeries dedicated to the cupcake, we have a head spinning array of bakeries producing delicious, elegant, high quality gemlike cupcakes! Are we in heaven?

What's next?


That's easy...there is so much beautiful food out there!

 

 

Wanna buy some art?

Large format paintings are available through the artist's website, artonthemenu.com. Small format paintings, and cardboard sculpture are available through her etsy shop, artonthemenu.etsy.com.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul152008

It's Biscuit, It's Biscuit Time!: Macrina Bakery's Buttermilk Biscuits

Macrina's Buttermilk Biscuits

When talking about bakeries in Seattle, the moment will inevitably come when someone asks us "What do you think about Macrina?." After all, Macrina Bakery is probably one of the more famous bakeries in Seattle: it's won awards, it's been featured in numerous cookbooks and on the Food Network. But it's also a very polarizing subject for locals, who either seem to love or loathe the place.

 

Naysayers will say that they're inconsistent, that the service is slow and sometimes surly, the baked goods dense and exceedingly--perhaps too--rich.

Strangely, those are all the same reasons we love it. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but it feels deeply human and homey somehow. And our very favorite item there? The buttermilk biscuits with fresh preserves.

Now, a Southern purist might be appalled by these biscuits--made with buttermilk, shortening, pastry flour and yeast, they seem to be on a different wavelength than the light-as-air, fluffy White Lily flour and lard sort from days of yore. Due to folding the dough three times before baking, they attain a level of flakiness that seems somehow denser than other biscuits, and works wonderfully with a morning coffee. And at approximately 7:15 a.m. in the morning, shortly after the bakery has opened for the day (we never go right at 7 because the biscuits are never out first-thing), we couldn't imagine anything sweeter than the rows and rows of golden-hued biscuits, still warm, each with a glistening jewel-like dollop of fresh preserves.

As for the haters? Go ahead, keep hating--more biscuits for us.

 

Macrina's Buttermilk BiscuitsMacrina's Buttermilk Biscuits 

In Seattle? Visit Macrina's shop(s--there are three) at 2408 1st Ave. in Belltown 206.448.4032 (and our favorite); at 615 West McGraw Street in Queen Anne, 206.283.5900; and at 19603 Vashon Hwy SW on Vashon Island, 206.567.4133. You can visit them online too at macrinabakery.com.
Not in Seattle? Well, luckily we have the recipe (though if it's more your speed, the recipe for their now famous Sour Cherry Coffee Cake, which was featured on the Food Network's "Road Tasted" show, can be found here). Also, their book is well worth investing in; it can be found here.
Macrina's Buttermilk Biscuits (With a few notes of our own--makes six generous biscuits)
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups vegetable shortening, cut to 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • egg wash made from 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water
To Garnish: Coarse sugar (use as desired) and 1/2 cup preserves, your favorite type (we like marionberry). The coarse sugar is not a deal breaker but does add a nice crunch; the preserves are absolutely necessary.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Mix with whisk to dissolve yeast, and let sit for five minutes while yeast blooms.
  3. Sift flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to combine. Drop pieces of shortening into bowl. Using pastry cutter or fork, cut in until coarse and crumbly.
  4. Add the yeast-water and buttermilk, and mix with a wooden spoon, but only until it all comes together--do not overmix.
  5. Coat hands with flour and pull dough from bowl on to a floured surface. Pat dough into a rectangle, approximately 9 x 5 inches, so the long side is facing you. Dough will be sticky so keep flouring your hands as needed.
  6. To achieve a flaky, layered effect, it's important to give the dough a series of tri-folds: fold into thirds like a letter, folding the left third over the center third first, and then the right third on top. Sprinkle more flour and roll out to a 9 x 5 rectangle again, repeating the tri-fold step twice more (for a total of three tri-folds), ending with a rectangle 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
  7. Cut into six equal rectangles and place on the baking sheet. Brush with your egg wash and sprinkle on raw sugar.
  8. Bake on center rack for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom (ours only took 18 minutes to get to the point we liked). Let cool for ten minutes or so, then dent the top with a spoon and fill with a generous dollop of your preserves.

Finally, as a bonus, a couple more photos of other Macrina baked goods:
Cupcakes at Macrina, Belltown, SeattleMacrina BakeryKiwi Topped Cupcakes at Macrina, Belltown, SeattleNice Buns at Macrina, Seattle
Macrina Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Sunday
May182008

The Mystical and Magical Mazurka: The Story of a Seattle Baked Good Icon

Mazurka Bar

(Mazurka pictured made by ace pastry chef Chris Jarchow)

Have you ever stopped to wonder why certain baked goods are popular in your area? 

For us, the discovery of a popular Seattle area treat, the fruit-and-oat bar, which is at times known by various names, started with The Baker's Apprentice, a book by Judith Ryan Hendricks, which our Head Spy Jessie picked up at random at the library last year. Turns out, the novel, which is about a thirty-something woman who is finding herself as a breadmaker after a nasty divorce (which is actually the sequel to the writer's previous novel, Bread Alone) is set in Seattle, and fictional as it may be, the "Queen Street Bakery" featured in the book is inspired by an actual bakery (the McGraw Street Bakery--now Macrina Bakery). But even more than this fact, what caught our attention was one pastry in particular in the book, which turns out to be real as well: the Mazurka Bar.
In the book, the baked good is described as:
"locally world famous--a killer combination of thin, flaky crust, then your choice of lemon, chocolat-espresso, apple-raisin, or raspberry filling, and on the top the crumble layer with its habit-forming, sandy crunch".
Ladro Coffee, and a Mazurka bar from Great Harvest Bread
Reading this, we got a shiver of excitement. We had noticed the proliferation of this fruit-and-oat cookie bar format in the Seattle area--though known by several different names, nearly every coffee shop or bakery in the area has some variation (several are pictured throughout this writeup). Could this mysterious Mazurka hold the key to this particular bar cookie's popularity in Seattle? 

An obsession was born.
We started out by emailing the writer Judith herself, who pointed us in the right direction in our Mazurka hunt, which eventually led us to the Mazurka Maven herself--Jessica Reisman, former owner of the McGraw Street Bakery and the woman who introduced the Mazurka to Seattle. Though Jessica now lives in Beacon, NY (where she owns a different cafe, the charming-looking Homespun Foods), she was more than happy to share the story of the mysterious bar with us:

Macadamia caramel chocolate crumb bar, Seattle
The path to Mazurka monopoly began in 1983, when Jessica Reisman moved to back to Seattle (she had previously lived in the city in the 70's, but had moved around a bit in between) and helped start up Rainbow Foods, a business which has evolved but still exists on Capitol Hill. At the same time, she began making the bars, which were based on Maida Heatter's recipe for Polish Wedding Cakes (in Heatter's description in her cookbook, she notes that they are also sometimes known as Mazurkas). At first the operation was skirting the line of legality--she was making them in her own apartment, and selling them from the back of her car at various festivals and street fairs. Popularity caught on though, and soon enough she was baking from a commercial space in Ballard, where she made enormous batches of Mazurkas which were then sold to wholesale accounts. In retrospect, this was a pivotal time for the Mazurka, and it can be argued as a case of being in the right place at the right time: as a hearty, dense, oaty treat, it appealed to Seattle's outdoor sensibilities--it was the perfect accompaniment for long hikes or mountain climbs, and homey enough for the most gloomy and drizzly days. Timewise, it couldn't have come along at a better time: the Mazurka became a popular wholesale item just as the espresso cart revolution was getting started in Seattle--since new operations would look at the offerings that the existing ones had, the Mazurka just became part of the coffee shop parcel. 
It was at the commercial baking space where Jessica met Nancy Mattheiss, who ran a custom cakes business--though their paths took a few loops and turns, a few years later they paired up again, adding a third partner Sue Fenoglio, to open the Mcgraw Street Bakery, where the Mazurka was a consistent bestseller.

Mazurka
Reisman eventually assumed ownership of the bakery, but sold a few years later. The bakery itself was leased out to various different businesses before eventually housing Macrina Bakery's Queen Anne location. She continued with a wholesale baking business for a couple more years, but eventually sold that too (along with the Mazurka recipe), in favor of returning back East to be closer to her family. She mentions that she thinks the business had since been sold again; though we can't confirm this, we surmise that perhaps it was sold to or absorbed by Great Harvest Bread Company--they are the only retailer in Seattle that sells a fruit and oat bar specifically called the Mazurka Bar, and that seems awfully coincidental to these humble spies. 
Cranberry Oat Bars, Three Sisters
Today, Jessica Reisman owns another bakery/cafe, Homespun Foods, in the artistic community of Beacon, New York (about an hour outside of NYC). The Mazurka lives on at Homespun, but is called the Mt. Beacon Bar. Though it is still a popular item, it never quite took off the same way it did in Seattle. Perhaps this is due to the weather; perhaps the culture; perhaps they just have different tastes on the East Coast. 

It is our belief though, that the Mazurka was in its element in Seattle. It was in the right place at the right time--and even years later, will remain a delicious historical marker of our cultural past.
As for the Mazurka's place in Jessica's heart and appetite? Well, let's just say she's been making them a long time. "I never touch mazurkas anymore," she laughs over the phone, "though I do love the way they smell."
Mazurkas
Want more lore? Definitely start out by reading the chock-full-of-carbohydrate novels Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks. Heck, while you're at it, go ahead and read her other novel (unrelated to the others but still food-filled), Isabel's Daughter
Also, for an artifact we unearthed along the way, check out this 1992 article from the Seattle Times, about Jessica's Mazurkas!
Want to make the Mazurka? We located the original recipe in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies; though Jessica admits to having taken some liberties and tried out different fillings, this is where you should start to master the mysterious treat:
POLISH WEDDING CAKES
These are called Mazurka in Polish. There are many versions, all rich and moist. This one has a crunchy crust and a tart apricot filling. 

Makes 16 2-inch squares 

Apricot Filling
  • 4 ounces (about 24 halves) dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  1. Bring the apricots and the water to a boil, uncovered, in a small, heavy saucepan with a tight cover over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer until the apricots are very tender, about half an hour, depending on the apricots. The fruit should be very soft and the water should be partially but not completely absorbed.
  2. Press the apricots with a potato masher or stir and mash vigorously with a fork. The mixture should be very thick. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Cool to room temperature. If you wish, this filling may be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
Polish Pastry 
Note: this is not like American pastry. It will resemble a crumb mixture.
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 3/4 ounces (1/2 cup, firmly packed) shredded coconut
  • 3/4 old fashioned or quick cooking (not "instant") oatmeal
  • 2 ounces (generous 1/2 cup) walnuts, cut medium fine
  1. Adjust an oven rack one-third up from the bottom and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place the Flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. With a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the coconut, oatmeal, and walnuts.
  3. Place half (3 cups) of the mixture in an unbuttered 8-inch-square cake pan. Press it evenly with your fingertips. Cover with a piece of wax paper and with the palm of your hand press against the paper to make a smooth, compact layer. Remove the wax paper.
  4. Spread the apricot filling smoothly over the pastry, staying 1/4 to 1/2 inch away from the edges. Sprinkle the remaining pastry evenly over the filling and repeat the directions for covering with wax paper and pressing smooth. Remove the wax paper.
  5. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes until the top is barely semifirm to the touch.
  6. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes or so; be sure to cut around the sides to loosen from the pan before cutting and serving.
Thank you to Judith Ryan Hendricks, Jessica Reisman, and Nancy Mattheiss for their help with this story.

Delicious Mazurka

 

Thursday
May152008

Cakewalk in Wallingford, Seattle

Cafe Au Lait Cupcakes Closeup
Never have we come across a neighborhood more in love with its name than Wallingford, a neighborhood with a low-key hippie persona in Seattle. In fact, on a recent trip there we noted all of the below "W" word references...all within a half-block.

 
However, strangely, just a few blocks from the main drag, the boundaries get blurred; according to some sources Wallingford's boundaries are thought of as Stone Way N to the west, Lake Union to the south; Interstate 5 to the east, and Woodland Park and NE 60th St. to the north. While some call the retail stretch along North 55th street "Tanglewood", we're counting it as Wallingford for added deliciousness in this Cakewalk; however, we have not included any bakeries south of 36th Street, because to us that just feels more like Fremont.
 But boundaries and name obsession aside, we're happy to say that sweetness abounds in Wallingford; here are some of our Cakewalking favorites:

Pastries in Wallingford 
Boulangerie: Pining for pithiviers? Craving a croissant? Jonesing for--ok, we'll stop. The pastry here is buttery, flaky, and sweet--but like most French pastry, it's best enjoyed fresh; a good stop for the morning hours. Plus, we can't confirm, but we expect, that this bakery served as inspiration for the one in the book Pastries by Bharti Kirchner. Cakespy Note: for what it's worth, we far prefer their flaky items (croissant, pain au chocolat) to their choux pastry items (éclairs, etc) here. 2200 N 45th St.; (206) 634-2211.

 

Custom Request, Undressed CuppieThe Erotic Bakery 

The Erotic Bakery: Everyone in Seattle knows about this place, and if they say they don't they're lying. Their name pretty much says it all--cakes, cupcakes, cookies and candies are all erotically charged here, decorated with naughty bits built to order. While we thought that places like this were more about shock value than fine baking, we must say we were amazed at the meticulous amount of detail that goes into their fondant "sculpture" pieces--and naughtiness aside, the quality of the baking surprised us as well; the cookie we sampled was actually quite toothsome. Not life-changing, but pleasantly surprising nonetheless. 2323 N 45th St; (206) 545-6969.

Love that logoPastries at Fuel (Muffins by Fresh Flours)
Fuel: We love a good logo, but it's even better if, like Fuel, your products are just as good. Our friendly barista made a killer Americano, and the pastry case was stacked with goodies from Fresh Flours (we approve of the Green Tea muffins) and Mighty-O Donuts; what's not to love? We went to the 1705 N. 45th St. location; online at fuelcoffeeseattle.com.
Hiroki: Hiroki is rather unassuming from the outside, but inside there's some magic being cooked up: signature desserts include Green Tea Tiramisu, Gâteau Basque, and chocolate-orange cookies. The standard is clearly very high in Chef Hiroki's kitchen; everything is exceedingly well-made and precise. If we must be completely honest though, sometimes we feel unsophisticated when faced with elegant desserts like these; so to us, this would be more of an after-dinner place than an everyday haunt. Then again, nobody's ever going to accuse us of having too much class--you know how common our tastes can be2224 North 56th St., (206) 547-4128; online at hiroki.us.
Marionberry Scone from Irwin's
Irwin's: Situated in an unlikely residential area, Irwin's boasts a case full of gorgeously carbohydrate rich treats, many of which (muffins, scones and cookies) are made in-house. We hear it's not a good choice for the morning rush, as service can be slow--but in the early afternoon, we couldn't imagine anything nicer than spending some quality time with one of those shortbready-rich little fruit-studded scones. We've not sampled their savory fare, but have heard mixed reviews. 2123 N 40th St; (206) 675-1484.

This is a really big macaroon.Julia's in Wallingford 
Julia's of Wallingford: Julia's seems to be one of those places that people either love or hate. To us, the retail bakery feels like a portal to 1993--with cases full of hippie-ish cookies, oat bars, and hearty treats like the coconut macaroons the size of your fist, it gives us memories of a time when it was cool to wear "Save the Whales" t-shirts, stirrup leggings, and Birkenstocks--all at the same time. Perhaps it's the memory of these awkward years that scares off some. But moreover we like Julia's, what with their hearty, mostly beige-hued baked goods; we don't like their cakes quite as much, but think they're worth a visit. 4401 Wallingford Avenue N., 206-633-1175; eatatjulias.com.

Mighty-O, Mighty Pleasure!Mighty-O Donuts, Seattle 
Mighty-O Donuts: We didn't even know that these donuts were vegan the first time we tried them, but we did know that we liked them. These donuts are not for the feint of heart--none of that light-as-air business here. These donuts are seriously dense, cakey, and seriously tasty. While you can get Mighty-O Donuts at coffee shops and grocery stores throughout the city, the flagship is worth a visit: seasonal flavors and a full variety of flavors you won't see in other stores are here, plus all those vegan employees are just so freakin' cute. 2110 N. 55th St., 206.547.0335; online at mightyo.com.

Trophy CupcakesRed Velvet Cupcakes, Trophy Cupcakes
Trophy Cupcakes: You've heard us rhapsodize about Trophy Cupcakes before, and we'll do it again. Tucked away from street view in the Wallingford Center (a renovated former schoolhouse), Trophy embodies the full spirit of celebration, with impeccable decor, cute party products...but of course, most importantly--beautifully crafted, and toe-curlingly good cupcakes (read our interview with owner Jennifer Shea here!). Our favorites? The Chai Cardamom, Hummingbird, and of course, the one that Martha made famous. 1815 N. 45th Street, in the Wallingford Center; online at trophycupcakes.com.

 

Some ridiculously huge pie at Zoka"Zoka" Bar 

Zoka Coffee: The pastry case here is an absolute feast for the eyes, overflowing with deep-dish pies in flavors from a vaguely virtuous blueberry to an absolutely sinful chocolate peanut butter; cookies ranging from vegan thumbprints to dense chocolate truffle cookies, to the decadent "Zoka Bar"-- a multilayer confection of coconut, chocolate, butterscotch and walnuts cradled on a graham cracker crust (reminiscent of the Magic Cookie bar from Magnolia Bakery, or the Bakedbar of Brooklyn). We love it all, and everything (except for a few bread items like bagels) is made in-house at their own commercial bakery. Sweet. A few different locations, but we visited 2200 N. 56th St.; online at zokacoffee.com.

Any other Wallingford favorites? Let us know!

 

Also, we've not yet been to brand-new ice creamery Molly Moon in the Wallingford Center--has anyone else? We'd love to hear your thoughts!



 

Wednesday
Apr162008

Coconut Dream: A Love Affair with Tom Douglas' Legendary Coconut Cream Pie

Le Famous Coconut Cream Pie

* Not a coconut fan? There's another tip at the bottom!

Upon moving to Seattle, we were surprised to hear that one of the city's famous desserts was the Triple Coconut Cream Pie from restaurateur Tom Douglas' Dahlia Lounge (you may recognize the restaurant from the timeless classic Sleepless in Seattle). Our wariness was twofold: first off, while a good dessert, coconut cream pie has never been a major player in our dessert vernacular, more often something that we'll eat because it's there, a second or third choice at best. And second, did we really trust a restaurateur who had a neon sign in his own image boldly hung outside of the restaurant? Was it a gesture of self-deprecating tongue in cheek humor, or just plain ego? And so, two years of residence passed before we even tried this pie, which has been their bestselling dessert for over twelve years.

 

But oh, to think back to the day we finally did try the famous pie. As will happen from time to time, a baked good is so well-made that even if it's outside of your general taste preferences, it will make you a believer. The taste of fresh whipped cream, laced with vanilla and coconut, is the first taste that hits you: rich, creamy and decadent. At an indeterminate point, the whipped cream ends and the pie filling begins, filling the mouth with a custardy, indulgent cocunutty taste; that gives way to a light, flaky pastry crust, also infused with coconut--all summing up to make you think that maybe, just maybe, becoming morbidly obese on this stuff wouldn't be so bad at all. Their restaurant portion will satisfy Herculean appetites; servings for all appetites can be found next door at the Dahlia bakery: from mini individual "bites" to larger sizes depending on how big a crowd you're feeding (or, you know, how hungry you are).

Dahlia is OpenCloseup on mini pie from Dahlia Bakery

If you're coming to Seattle, we deem it worth seeking out; if you're not in the Seattle area, then don't despair, here's the recipe (which can also be found in the worth-buying book Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, available here)
December 2, 2007 (2)

Triple Coconut Cream Pie
(Makes one 9-inch pie)

Ingredients:

For The Coconut Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
For The Pie
  • One 9-inch Pie shell (go ahead, put coconut in the shell too!)
  • prebaked and cooled
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For Garnish
  • 2 ounces unsweetened "chip" or large-shred coconut (about 11/2 cups) or sweetened shredded coconut
  • Chunks of white chocolate (4 to 6 ounces, to make 2 ounces of curls)
Instructions

 

1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling) by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 Cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.

3. When the pastry cream is cold, fill the prebaked pie shell with it, smoothing the surface. In an electric mixer with the whisk, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe it all over the surface of the pie, or spoon it over.

4. For the garnish, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, watching carefully and stirring once or twice, since coconut burns easily, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls.

On The Plate
Cut the pie into 6 to 8 wedges and place on dessert plates. Decorate each wedge of pie with white chocolate curls and the toasted coconut.

Cuppie Sees the Sunrise in Seattle
A Step Ahead

If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be consumed within a day. Prepare the garnishes just before serving. The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored chilled in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above. Fill the pie shell and top it with whipped cream and garnishes when you are ready to serve the pie.
Recipe borrowed from Books-for-Cooks.com, Copyright © 2002.

Cupcakes at the Dahlia Bakery, Seattle

Of course, if you're not a coconut fan, we are also huge fans of the cupcakes at Dahlia Bakery. True Story: one time while walking up to the door, we walked into a girl and guy coming out. Says girl to guy in a vaguely sensual voice and through a chocolate-flecked mouth: "Oh my god this is the best cupcake I've ever tasted" -- and then her eyes kind of rolled back in pleasure. We'll have what she's having, please.

 

 

Dahlia Lounge and Dahlia Bakery are located side by side at 2001 4th Ave., Seattle; check them (and Tom Douglas' other restaurants) out at tomdouglas.com.


Dahlia Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

© Cakespy, all rights reserved. Powered by Squarespace.